Even with the perfect Southeast Conference dual-meet record behind his team, including the recent 4-3 decision over Kenosha Tremper, Franklin girls tennis coach John Brandes knew a hard road still existed for the Sabers to secure their fifth straight Southeast Conference title on Sept. 29.
Too close, as it turned out. The Sabers won three flights, but the Trojans took the other four, as Tremper denied Franklin the league title by a 78-74 count in the final standings.
"We only had a two-point lead going into the tourney, so we knew we had to perform well," Brandes said, "but unfortunately, they (the Trojans) performed a bit better than we did ... it was an unfortunate day, so hopefully, we can use it as motivation for the WIAA tournament."
They took part in the WIAA subsectional at South Milwaukee on Oct. 3 and sent qualifiers to the sectional at Greenfield on Oct. 5. The first four finishers in flight one of singles and doubles and the winner of flight two in singles and doubles automatically qualify for the WIAA individual state meet in Madison, Oct. 13-15.
Powerful state-ranked teams from Nicolet and Whitefish Bay will be involved in the sectional so Brandes knows qualifying will be hard but still possible.
"The girls are very humbled and upset about this (losing conference)," he said. "They want to do something about it."
They did as much as they could at the Southeast tourney as youthful singles players showed the way. Sophomore third singles player Alexa Moran defeated a Tremper opponent to earn a flight title, as did freshman Vanessa Peterson at fourth singles.
The Sabers also earned a title from the third doubles team of sophomores Kaitlyn Burns and Morgan Peters, who also downed a Trojan team in a tough, three-set final.
Taking seconds for the Sabers were Katie Lehman at second singles and the first doubles team of Whitney Dohr and Annika Bartelt. They also fell to a Tremper pair.
Dohr and Bartelt earned a big semifinal victory over a state-ranked pair from Oak Creek in the semifinals. They had lost to that same pair in the dual meet. Also competing was Abi Lehman at first singles. Brandes thought the team did a nice job of handling the windy conditions in Racine.
"Tremper got everyone to the finals, and that counted for a lot," he said. "We needed to hold them to three (flight titles), and we couldn't quite do it."